During the worst winter storm Dallas has seen in decades, Facebook users found a way to use their love of food to help their neighbors. Since last year, Facebook groups created to promote local restaurants have been doing so with great success. When power outages made food and heat hard to come by, they helped with that too.
Just days after restaurants were ordered to close in March last year, Vu Ly and Tran Loh started the private group Asian Grub in DFDUB (DFW) with a mission to help Asian mom and pop restaurants survive the pandemic. Within six weeks the group had grown to 19,500 members; now it has nearly twice that number.
In the past week, countless posts have shared offers of free food and other assistance. A daily pinned post includes a Google map of open restaurants with a request to add more in the comments.
Even before the snowpocalypse, the page often had dozens of posts a day. Restaurant owners who are approved members can post directly to the page, so it’s an insider’s treasure map to pop-ups, soft openings and special deals.
Other members might ask where to find yen ta fo or who has the best nam khao in the area. Regular contributors share their favorite hot chicken spots and sushi restaurants.
There’s a single monthly thread for homemade food items for purchase, too. Moderators insist on keeping that thread contained so that the focus stays on brick and mortar restaurants that need customers to keep them in business.
Funny memes make their way onto the page, but somehow, drama doesn’t. Despite Facebook’s (earned) reputation for being full of boomers and Karens, active members (the ones making posts) seem to be diverse in age as well as ethnicity. Political posts don’t make it through moderation, and the occasional argument that emerges gets shut down quickly.
While the group manages to avoid the unpleasantness that can be widespread on Facebook, you do have to have a Facebook profile to join the group. Requests to join must be accompanied by answers to three non-intrusive questions and agreement to the group rules.
The same is true for Black Owned Restaurants DFW, a private group with over 51,000 members. This group was created on the second day of the George Floyd police brutality protests with the intention of showing support for local Black-owned businesses.
Catering businesses, personal chefs and cottage businesses post here frequently with ordering via direct message. Brick and mortar restaurant promotions show up here, with some coming from happy customers and others directly from the restaurant owners.
Posts last week crowdsourced open restaurants, available delivery options and free hot meals, with generous offers from Trucker’s Cafe and Gran’s Kitchen among them.
City-specific groups have been established much longer, and despite having fewer members they keep a steady stream of restaurant information flowing.
A Taste of Irving was created in 2015 to share food experiences at local restaurants, food trucks, pop-ups and more. With just 5,400 members (and far fewer active ones) the group does more than just promote Irving restaurants.
In April last year, group administrator Mark McKee used his stimulus check as seed money for something called “Project Gift Back.” McKee and other administrators sought donations, purchased gift cards from local restaurants and gave them to front-line employees and furloughed workers. In all, the group distributed almost $13,000 worth of hot meals while bringing needed revenue to distressed businesses.
Before the winter storm, the group’s timeline was a mix of posts from restaurants and well-photographed restaurant reviews from McKee and a handful of other members. From birria tacos and barbecue to momos and po boys, the group helps Irving locals navigate one of the most diverse food scenes in DFW.
Unsurprisingly, in recent days, the focus has turned once again to helping neighbors. One member prepurchased over 30 pizzas from Pizza Patron and told those in need how to claim one. Another contributor snapped a photo of a full milk case at the grocery store and gave the location. If anything can make a venture into the wilds of Facebook worth it, that just might be it.